The Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo and New Patriotic Party (NPP) government swept into power in the 2016 elections on the wings of strong demands for change by Ghanaians from a government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under John Dramani Mahama, that was perceived to be corrupt and inefficient. The government celebrated its first year in office this January.
Promising change in the living conditions of Ghanaians and the pursuance of the rule of law, the party was voted for and won a landslide victory against an incumbent government, effectively making Mahama the first one-term president since the Fourth Republic began in 1992.
But the Akufo-Addo NPP government has been accused of pampering party members who have been found to have broken the laws of the country.
An assessment of the political governance of the Akufo-Addo government in its first year, shows some positives, but also a number of downsides which include, the fact that it is pandering to its electoral base and party members, with a concentration of government activities at the presidency which makes for less transparency, accountability and economic efficiency.
At a public discussion Friday January 12, 2018, held in Accra to assess the government’s one year in office, the CDD-Ghana observed that the government has demonstrated some positives such as the nomination of Martin Amidu as the first to occupy the Office of Special Prosecutor, but there are many downsides.
Prof. Emmanuel Gyima-Boadi, of the CDD-Ghana acknowledged that the President has demonstrated a positive style of leadership, especially when it comes to his role as Head of State.
“In this role he has used his willing pulpit very positively to inspire the nation to aspire to greatness. His statements and symbolic actions have sought to generally foster national unity,” he said, explaining further that the President’s actions such as meeting with former Heads of State and publicly acknowledging and thanking and taking note of the contributions of the technocrats, lawyers and others that the former administration had put together to pursue Ghana’s interest at the International Tribunal of Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
Prof. Gyimah-Boadi noted further that the President has demonstrated considerable openness to civil society, non-state actors and “even gone out of his way to solicit their partnership and policy input with respect to Ghana’s sustainable development goals, the Ghana anti-corruption plan and the Open Government Partnership as well as the very strong partnership with the media and civil society to fight the menace of illegal mining,” he said.
The CDD-Ghana used a number of indices to do the evaluation. It used the government’s own election manifesto and campaign promises, what they said about the past government when they were in opposition, in parliament or outside parliament.
They also used President’s goals, set out in his inaugural address, laying out visions and how to function and benchmarks such as the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index were used to assess the government.
Prof. Gyimah-Boadi gave credit to the government for laying the ground work for the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor by passing legislation to back the Office and going ahead to nominate the Special Prosecutor.
“The administration also gets credit for increased budget allocation for key governance sector institutions, for instance the Audit Service allocation went from GH¢140.6 million in 2016 to GH¢278.9 million in 2018. Parliament has moved from GH¢255.9 million in 2016 to GH¢406.2 million in 2018,” he said.
He indicated that the allocation for Parliament has moved from GH¢255.9 million in 2016 to GH¢406.2 million in 2018. The Attorney-General’s Department and Ministry of Justice received GH¢74.7 million in the 2016 budget, but it was increased to GH¢110.4 million in 2018.
According to Prof. Gyimah-Boadi, the increase in budget allocations indicate a commitment to funding governance institutions, rather than leaving them to starve, or depriving them of the vital resources necessary to enable them to do their work.
On the government’s effort to seek amendment to the Constitution and the laws of Ghana to allow for the election of District, Municipal and Metropolitan Chief Executives, he said the CDD-Ghana is encouraged.
He further noted that the efforts seeking to strengthen Parliament’s ability to oversight the Executive by the removal of the restrictions against tabling of money and private members’ bills are encouraging.
He acknowledged the President’s promise to pass a code of conduct for public office holders and may be reform the public office holder asset declaration regime.
“We are encouraged by the Speaker’s promise to reform Parliament and to make the reports of committee meetings public, but there are many, many shortcomings,” he said.
Critiquing the political governance record of the Akufo-Addo government, Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said the government has broadly kept faith with the Constitution and the laws of the country, but pointed out that like its predecessor governments in the Fourth Republic, it tends to do so in a minimalist fashion.
“And therefore contrary to expectations, prior to the elections and its immediate aftermath, the Akufo-Addo, NPP government has not moved compliance with the law and constitution as well as compliance with democratic governance norms and tenets beyond the very basic minimum that has been the status quo and practice,” he said. Citing the principle of declaration of assets by public office holders, he said while the President and his appointees filed their asset declaration forms on time, the President chose not to declare his assets publicly “a move that would have raised the bar for future presidents and his ministers beyond the minimum required by the current law,” he added.
While the law does not require the president to disclose his assets publicly, the law would not prevent him from doing so, he pointed out, adding, “and we are disappointed, he didn’t.”
Prof. Gyimah-Boadi stated that similarly, there has been no change in the manner in which the President and ministers choose to deploy the vast discretionary authority, the constitution and the laws of Ghana allowed the President and the Executive branch.
“We saw this unregulated exercise of discretionary authority very much on display when the government failed to pass legislation to back its signature free senior high school programme. If that has been done, among other things it would have enhanced cross-party support for the programme. And in our view it is always good practice for policies that are going to draw on the exchequer, on the public purse, must be backed by law,” he said.
He noted that for failing to back the programme with law, the government has repeated the same mistake of the Kufuor government when it changed the duration of the SHS from three to four years by fiat, only for it to be reversed by the Mills administration also by fiat.
Prof. Gyimah-Boadi expressed concern about the continuation of the politics of winner-takes all approach to politics, the politicization of the public service and public service appointments – he argued that these conducts have not only persisted, but they appear to have been intensified.
“The Akufo-Addo NPP government undertook wholesale removal of incumbent CEOs of state regulatory bodies, state corporations, trusts, councils and also dissolved all the boards of those state agencies and replaced them with people from the president’s own party,” he noted.
On ambassadorial appointments, he said 39 out of the 50 vacancies for ambassadors and deputy ambassador positions have been given to political appointees. This development he said ensures continuity in the baneful winner-take-all approach to governance, adding that this is something that happens at the expense of meritocracy, democratic and technocratic management.
He expressed concern about the practice of party in government. According to Prof. Gyimah-Boadi, after elections, the party should recede to the background when it comes to policy implementation and not continue to ensconce itself at the front, centre and the back of it.
On lawlessness, he said the Akufo-Addo government cannot be held responsible for introducing lawlessness in the country, but it can be accused of not helping the situation and possibly aggravating it as well as undermining the rule of law.
“It stands accused for pampering ruling party law-breakers and offending foot soldiers and vigilantes and so, the expectation of enhanced rule of law, especially by government and the state being blind to party colours in the application of the law has so far remained unfulfilled,” he said.
He held the view that the government’s condoning of unlawful actions by militant ruling party insiders; all of them marked the lowest depths in upholding the rule of law in Ghana’s fourth republic.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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